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in Civil Case No.

02-0137, which denied the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction


G.R. No. 154207. April 27, 2007.*
against the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC), Branch 45, Pasay City, in Criminal Case No.
00-1705;1 and the RTC’s Order dated June 5, 2002 denying the Motion for Reconsideration.
FERDINAND A. CRUZ, petitioner, vs. ALBERTO MINA, HON. ELEUTERIO F. No writ of preliminary injunction was issued by this Court.
GUERRERO and HON. ZENAIDA LAGUILLES, respondents.
The antecedents:
Criminal Procedure; Law Student Practice Rule; As succinctly clarified in
Bar Matter No. 730, by virtue of Section 34, Rule 138, a law student may appear, On September 25, 2000, Ferdinand A. Cruz (petitioner) filed before the MeTC
as an agent or a friend of a party litigant, without the supervision of a lawyer a formal Entry of Appearance, as private prosecutor, in Criminal Case No. 00-
before inferior courts.—Section 34, Rule 138 is clear that appearance before the 1705 for Grave Threats, where his father, Mariano Cruz, is the complaining
inferior courts by a non-lawyer is allowed, irrespective of whether or not he is a witness.
law student. As succinctly clarified in Bar Matter No. 730, by virtue of Section 34,
Rule 138, a law student may appear, as an agent or a friend of a party litigant,
The petitioner, describing himself as a third year law student, justifies his
without the supervision of a lawyer before inferior courts.
appearance as private prosecutor on the bases of Section 34 of Rule 138 of the
Rules of Court and the ruling of the Court En Banc in Cantimbuhan v. Judge
Same; Recovery of Civil Liability; When a criminal action is instituted, the Cruz, Jr.2 that a non-lawyer may appear before the inferior courts as an agent or
civil action for the recovery of civil liability arising from the offense charged shall friend of a party litigant. The petitioner furthermore avers that his appearance
be deemed instituted with criminal action, unless the offended party waives the was with the prior conformity of the public prosecutor and a written authority of
civil action, reserves the right to institute it separately or institutes the civil action Mariano Cruz appointing him to be his agent in the prosecution of the said
prior to the criminal action.—Under Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code, every criminal case.
person criminally liable for a felony is also civilly liable except in instances when
no actual damage results from an offense, such as espionage, violation of
However, in an Order dated February 1, 2002, the MeTC denied permission
neutrality, flight to an enemy country, and crime against popular representation.
for petitioner to appear as private prosecutor on the ground that Circular No. 19
The basic rule applies in the instant case, such that when a criminal action is
governing limited law student practice in conjunction with Rule 138-A of the
instituted, the civil action for the recovery of civil liability arising from the offense
Rules of Court (Law Student Practice Rule) should take precedence over the
charged shall be deemed instituted with criminal action, unless the offended
ruling of the Court laid down in Cantimbuhan; and set the case for continuation
party waives the civil action, reserves the right to institute it separately or
of trial.3
institutes the civil action prior to the criminal action.

On February 13, 2002, petitioner filed before the MeTC a Motion for
Same; Same; Petitioner is correct in stating that there being no reservation,
Reconsideration seeking to reverse the February 1, 2002 Order alleging that Rule
waiver nor prior institution of the civil aspect in Criminal Case No. 00-1705, it
138-A, or the Law Student Practice Rule, does not have the effect of superseding
follows that the civil aspect arising from Grave Threats is deemed instituted with
Section 34 of Rule 138, for the authority to interpret the rule is the source itself of
criminal action; Private prosecutor may rightfully intervene to prosecute the civil
the rule, which is the Supreme Court alone.
aspect.—The petitioner is correct in stating that there being no reservation,
waiver, nor prior institution of the civil aspect in Criminal Case No. 00-1705, it
follows that the civil aspect arising from Grave Threats is deemed instituted with In an Order dated March 4, 2002, the MeTC denied the Motion for
the criminal action, and, hence, the private prosecutor may rightfully intervene to Reconsideration.
prosecute the civil aspect.
On April 2, 2002, the petitioner filed before the RTC a Petition
SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION in the Supreme Court. Certiorari. for Certiorari and Mandamus with Prayer for Preliminary Injunction and
Temporary Restraining Order against the private respondent and the public
respondent MeTC.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

After hearing the prayer for preliminary injunction to restrain public


AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:
respondent MeTC Judge from proceeding with Criminal Case No. 00-1705
pending the Certiorariproceedings, the RTC, in a Resolution dated May 3, 2002,
Before the Court is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, grounded resolved to deny the issuance of an injunctive writ on the ground that the crime of
on pure questions of law, with Prayer for Preliminary Injunction assailing the Resolution
Grave Threats, the subject of Criminal Case No. 001705, is one that can be
dated May 3, 2002 promulgated by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 116, Pasay City,
prosecuted de oficio, there being no claim for civil indemnity, and that therefore, Considering that this case involves the interpretation, clarification, and
the intervention of a private prosecutor is not legally tenable. implementation of Section 34, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, Bar Matter No. 730,
Circular No. 19 governing law student practice and Rule 138-A of the Rules of
On May 9, 2002, the petitioner filed before the RTC a Motion for Reconsideration. Court, and the ruling of the Court in Cantimbuhan, the Court takes cognizance of
The petitioner argues that nowhere does the law provide that the crime of Grave herein petition.
Threats has no civil aspect. And last, petitioner cites Bar Matter No. 730 dated
June 10, 1997 which expressly provides for the appearance of a non-lawyer before The basic question is whether the petitioner, a law student, may appear before an
the inferior courts, as an agent or friend of a party litigant, even without the inferior court as an agent or friend of a party litigant.
supervision of a member of the bar.
The courts a quo held that the Law Student Practice Rule as encapsulated in
Pending the resolution of the foregoing Motion for Reconsideration before the Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court, prohibits the petitioner, as a law student, from
RTC, the petitioner filed a Second Motion for Reconsideration dated June 7, 2002 entering his appearance in behalf of his father, the private complainant in the
with the MeTC seeking the reversal of the March 4, 2002 Denial Order of the said criminal case without the supervision of an attorney duly accredited by the law
court, on the strength of Bar Matter No. 730, and a Motion to Hold In Abeyance school.
the Trial dated June 10, 2002 of Criminal Case No. 00-1705 pending the outcome
of the certiorari proceedings before the RTC. Rule 138-A or the Law Student Practice Rule, provides:

On June 5, 2002, the RTC issued its Order denying the petitioner’s Motion for RULE 138-A
Reconsideration. LAW STUDENT PRACTICE RULE

Likewise, in an Order dated June 13, 2002, the MeTC denied the petitioner’s “Section 1. Conditions for Student Practice.—A law student who has successfully completed
Second Motion for Reconsideration and his Motion to Hold in Abeyance the Trial his 3rd year of the regular four-year prescribed law curriculum and is enrolled in a
on the ground that the RTC had already denied the Entry of Appearance of recognized law school’s clinical legal education program approved by the Supreme Court,
petitioner before the MeTC. may appear without compensation in any civil, criminal or administrative case before any
trial court, tribunal, board or officer, to represent indigent clients accepted by the legal
clinic of the law school.
On July 30, 2002, the petitioner directly filed with this Court, the instant
Petition and assigns the following errors:
I. Sec. 2. Appearance.—The appearance of the law student authorized by this rule, shall
THE RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT RESOLVED be under the direct supervision and control of a member of the Integrated Bar of the
TO DENY THE PRAYER FOR THE WRIT OF INJUNCTION OF THE HEREIN PETITIONER Philippines duly accredited by the law school. Any and all pleadings, motions, briefs,
DESPITE PETITIONER HAVING ESTABLISHED THE NECESSITY OF GRANTING THE WRIT; memoranda or other papers to be filed, must be signed by the supervising attorney for and
II. in behalf of the legal clinic.”
THE RESPONDENT TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION, TANTAMOUNT TO
IGNORANCE OF THE LAW, WHEN IT RESOLVED TO DENY THE PRAYER FOR THE WRIT OF
PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION AND THE SUBSEQUENT MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF However, in Resolution6 dated June 10, 1997 in Bar Matter No. 730, the Court En
THE HEREIN PETITIONER ON THE BASIS THAT [GRAVE] THREATS HAS NO CIVIL ASPECT,
Banc clarified:
FOR THE SAID BASIS OF DENIAL IS NOT IN ACCORD WITH THE LAW;
III.
THE RESPONDENT METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT The rule, however, is different if the law student appears before an inferior court,
DENIED THE MOTION TO HOLD IN ABEYANCE TRIAL, WHEN WHAT WAS DENIED BY THE
RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IS THE ISSUANCE OF THE WRIT OF PRELIMINARY where the issues and procedure are relatively simple. In inferior courts, a law
INJUNCTION and WHEN THE RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IS YET TO DECIDE ON student may appear in his personal capacity without the supervision of a lawyer.
THE MERITS OF THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI; Section 34, Rule 138 provides:
IV.
THE RESPONDENT COURT[S] ARE CLEARLY IGNORING THE LAW WHEN THEY PATENTLY
REFUSED TO HEED TO [sic] THE CLEAR MANDATE OF THE LAPUT, Sec. 34. By whom litigation is conducted.—In the court of a justice of the peace, a party may
CANTIMBUHANAND BULACAN CASES, AS WELL AS BAR MATTER NO. 730, PROVIDING FOR conduct his litigation in person, with the aid of an agent or friend appointed by him for that
THE APPEARANCE OF NON-LAWYERS BEFORE THE LOWER COURTS (MTC’S).4 purpose, or with the aid of an attorney. In any other court, a party may conduct his
litigation personally or by aid of an attorney, and his appearance must be either personal or
This Court, in exceptional cases, and for compelling reasons, or if warranted by by a duly authorized member of the bar.
the nature of the issues reviewed, may take cognizance of petitions filed directly
before it.5
Thus, a law student may appear before an inferior court as an agent or friend of a party Under Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code, every person criminally liable
without the supervision of a member of the bar.”7 (Emphasis supplied) for a felony is also civilly liable except in instances when no actual damage results
from an offense, such as espionage, violation of neutrality, flight to an enemy
The phrase “In the court of a justice of the peace” in Bar Matter No. 730 is country, and crime against popular representation.9 The basic rule applies in the
subsequently changed to “In the court of a municipality” as it now appears in instant case, such that when a criminal action is instituted, the civil action for the
Section 34 of Rule 138, thus:8 recovery of civil liability arising from the offense charged shall be deemed
instituted with criminal action, unless the offended party waives the civil action,
“SEC. 34. By whom litigation is conducted.—In the Court of a municipality a party may reserves the right to institute it separately or institutes the civil action prior to
conduct his litigation in person, with the aid of an agent or friend appointed by him for that the criminal action.10
purpose, or with the aid of an attorney. In any other court, a party may conduct his
litigation personally or by aid of an attorney and his appearance must be either personal or The petitioner is correct in stating that there being no reservation, waiver, nor
by a duly authorized member of the bar.” (Emphasis supplied)
prior institution of the civil aspect in Criminal Case No. 00-1705, it follows that
the civil aspect arising from Grave Threats is deemed instituted with the criminal
which is the prevailing rule at the time the petitioner filed his Entry of action, and, hence, the private prosecutor may rightfully intervene to prosecute
Appearance with the MeTC on September 25, 2000. No real distinction exists for the civil aspect.
under Section 6, Rule 5 of the Rules of Court, the term “Municipal Trial Courts”
as used in these Rules shall include Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The assailed Resolution and Order of the
Courts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts. Regional Trial Court, Branch 116, Pasay City are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The
Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 45, Pasay City is DIRECTED to ADMIT the Entry of
There is really no problem as to the application of Section 34 of Rule 138 and Appearance of petitioner in Criminal Case No. 00-1705 as a private prosecutor under the
Rule 138-A. In the former, the appearance of a non-lawyer, as an agent or friend direct control and supervision of the public prosecutor.
of a party litigant, is expressly allowed, while the latter rule provides for
conditions when a law student, not as an agent or a friend of a party litigant, may No pronouncement as to costs.
appear before the courts.
SO ORDERED.
Petitioner expressly anchored his appearance on Section 34 of Rule 138. The
court a quo must have been confused by the fact that petitioner referred to Ynares-Santiago (Chairperson), Callejo Sr., Chico-Nazario and Nachura,
himself as a law student in his entry of appearance. Rule 138-A should not have JJ., concur.
been used by the courts a quo in denying permission to act as private prosecutor
against petitioner for the simple reason that Rule 138-A is not the basis for the
Petition granted, assailed resolution reversed and set aside.
petitioner’s appearance.

Note.—Unless the offended party waives the civil action or reserves the right
Section 34, Rule 138 is clear that appearance before the inferior courts by a
to institute it separately or institutes the civil action prior to the criminal action,
non-lawyer is allowed, irrespective of whether or not he is a law student. As
there are two actions involved in a criminal case. (Salazar vs. People, 411 SCRA
succinctly clarified in Bar Matter No. 730, by virtue of Section 34, Rule 138, a law
598 [2003])
student may appear, as an agent or a friend of a party litigant, without the
supervision of a lawyer before inferior courts.

Petitioner further argues that the RTC erroneously held that, by its very
nature, no civil liability may flow from the crime of Grave Threats, and, for this
reason, the intervention of a private prosecutor is not possible.

It is clear from the RTC Decision that no such conclusion had been intended
by the RTC. In denying the issuance of the injunctive court, the RTC stated in its
Decision that there was no claim for civil liability by the private complainant for
damages, and that the records of the case do not provide for a claim for
indemnity; and that therefore, petitioner’s appearance as private prosecutor
appears to be legally untenable.